I’m been an advocate of transparency on my own life for a long time, mostly because the principle that if I put my life out there, yet I may face some risk to be signalled for my defects… but I rather have that that than be accused of hiding or being dishonest.
Same with fisheries... yes we have issues… like anyone else, so the more we put out the better we can deal with them and better the light gets pointed on those ones that are trying to hide things.
Here in the Pacific we have two main vessels registers, the WCPFC Record of Fishing Vessels that holds all the vessels or all the countries fishing in the region as listed with the details provided by the flag states, and then the one of Pacific Island Fisheries Forum Agency (FFA)
FFA is a quiet giant in the fisheries world, for 40 years has been responsible for the biggest fishery in the world (the Pacific Tuna fishery) and made up by some of the smallest countries in the world. And they do good work, as shown by the recent Stop IUU Award the got.
Anyway, the FFA Vessel Register procedures act as a basic entry level requirement into the region that ensures vessel operators provide a minimum set of registration elements; meet the FAO Standard Specifications for the marking and identification of fishing vessels and is reporting automatically, normally and consistently to the FFA VMS.
FFA Vessel Register procedures are additional to any national registration and licensing procedures required by FFA members, that may require additional National licensing procedures prior to issuing a license to fish.
Any application received which contains information that is incorrect, inaccurate, misleading or incomplete, will be rejected, and the applicant will be informed of the reasons for rejection.
Any vessel operator that contravenes FFA Vessel Register requirements is likely to have its vessel’s good standing on the FFA Vessel Register suspended or withdrawn, so that it will not be legally entitled to fish in any FFA member EEZ.
And this is quite unique, because it involves all vessels (of any nationality) fishing in the waters of the 17 member countries (Cook Is, Fiji, FSM, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Is, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and then NZ and Australia) and list them in function of their “Good Standing”
The FFA Vessel Register procedures act as a basic entry level requirement into the region that ensures:
operators provide a minimum set of registration elements;
FAO Specifications for the marking and identification;
Monitored by and reporting to the FFA VMS;
Subject to background checks on IUU lists before registration;
Flexible registration period one year.
Those in good standing, mean that not only they have their own flag state authorisation to fish, in the register, that they are listed on WCPFC Record of Fishing Vessels, and that thy can have FFA Members National fishing licenses to fish and they can be in the PNA VDS Register (PS & LL under PNA VDS) or US Treaty Licenses.
So this “good standing register” is a very good tool if you want know if your tuna come in principle from a vessel that is legally entitled to fish in the WCPFO.
I think that having this resource on line and searchable is awesome, as allows many authorities and/or consumers to check by themselves the status of the vessels operating in this fishery.
Now if that vessel has done underreporting or fished in contravention of its licensing conditions on the trip that that particular fish comes from… well that is another story… there you need to trust our PSM, our surveillance and a lot of other stuff se do as part of our everyday work.
Surely not perfect, but believe me, everyone is really triying.
Disclosure: FFA has been one of my contractors for many years now and one of my favourite agencies to work with. Over the years I had always good and challenging assignments and I never take their work for granted... many years ago they gave me (remember I’m an immigrant) the only thing one cannot buy… and opportunity and then trust.